The thought occurred to me recently that, whether I like it or not, I’m setting an example. Now, that example might be a warning or “cautionary tale” or one that is worthy to be followed.
This is particularly true in the realm of parenting.
Opportunity for Growth
Whether we like it or not, our kids mimic us far more than they obey our words to them. Which of us hasn’t had the unpleasant (or perhaps, downright horrifying) experience of watching your child act out one of your own character flaws?
That is what my friend Tamie would refer to as an opportunity for growth.
Nothing makes you more aware of your behavior behind closed doors like watching your kid live out your example in front of others.
Humbling thoughts, no?
I could easily justify all of this by telling myself in a comforting voice that no one is perfect, after all, and I do so much better than most.
Avoiding the Hypocrite Excuse
The common excuse offered up by many who either grew up in church and walked away or those who just want an excuse to avoid church and the things of God is the excuse relating to “all of those hypocrites”.
The call to set a good example is not a call to live hypocritically, as if you make no mistakes. Quite the opposite actually.
The difference between some sort of Pharisee and someone who is endeavoring to live a life of holiness by God’s grace is seen in how they handle their own failures. A Pharisee will walk around as if they didn’t just screw up, and probably will even attempt to cover it up or excuse the behavior. Gotta protect that façade.
How many “leaders” have fallen, where you find out, years later, of the staggering number of cover ups, excuses, and so forth involved? It disgusts me. I’m pretty sure it disgusts Jesus too.
Someone who has experienced the humbling power of God’s grace operates from a different mindset. Humility. Love. Grace. Repentance. No cover ups. No condemnation. I screwed up, I’m sorry. I’m trying to do better. Pray for me.
Apologies and Respect
Our former pastor from years ago was horrified to hear us apologize to our then-toddler kids for a shortcoming when we corrected one of them in anger. “You want your kids to respect you,” he advised.
Yep. We do.
Think about it.
Does anyone respect anyone else who walks around pretending their mistakes never happened and never trying to make it right?
Do kids respect parents who think it’s no big deal that they snapped at them harshly?
If they do, it’s the kind of respect that springs up out of duty not because they genuinely respect the person from the heart.
Almost 17 years after that happened, what is the indelible memory all of our kids have about our parenting? When we screwed up, we always genuinely apologized and tried to make it right.
The Bottom Line on Parenting by Example
Raising Great Kids boils down to this, many times:
- If you want children who serve, then need to see you serving. They need to serve alongside of you as they grow.
- They need to hear you thankful and not complaining about serving the Lord.
- They need to see you deal with conflict in a godly way, humble enough to apologize when you are wrong.
So many of our lessons are not found in the perfect family devotional, but rather in those every day circumstances God sends our way, and seeing their parents live out their faith on more than just Sunday mornings.